In traditional publishing it used to be normal, and expected, authors would tour their home country and perhaps others, with news of their latest release. These tours comprised various public engagements in which the author would speak on: some topic from the book; their writing habits; where their inspiration came from; the writing life; etc. Readings and book signings were also incorporated. In essence these tours formed part of the publisher’s publicity machine. With travel, accommodation, venue fees, stock of physical books, etc., these tours were not inexpensive and were therefore principally reserved for well known, popular, authors or ones the publisher anticipated would become so.
A blog tour is the ‘virtual’ equivalent of the above. An author will ‘visit’ a number of different participating blogs over a specified period of time. The idea is to primarily promote an author’s book (new or old) and sometimes the author them self. These tours used to be very popular but, with the advent of easier access to live video, webinars and podcasting either through dedicated sites or social media applications, have largely fallen out of favour. Nevertheless, they remain a valid means for communicating information about books to the online community. The occasional tour may still be encountered.
It is important to note a blog tour is very different to a blog blitz, which is where a number of bloggers post the same content at the same time. An authentic blog tour will consist of unique posts for each of the blogs visited as part of the tour. These may consist of any of the following:
- Book Review.
- Book Synopsis (blurb).
- Book excerpts.
- Author Interview (written, video, or audio).
- Q & A (question and answer) about the book and/or author.
- Topic relevant to the book’s content or theme.
- Author’s research into book subject(s).
- Character Interview(s).
- Subject relevant to the hosting blog’s usual content. (Some sort of reference to the book/author being promoted should be incorporated.)
- Giveaway details. (Some like to include an incentive to readers.)
- A competition. (People enjoy winning something. Prizes do not have to be expensive.)
Just a few ideas to start with. Undoubtedly people will be able to think of other interesting and informative content for posts. Remember, each post should be unique to each blog with the content not being repeated in any other.
Naturally what to include or omit is entirely at the author’s and/or blog tour organiser’s (more about them in a moment) discretion. Giveaways and competitions are not necessary though some have found them useful for attracting attention.
Important: The author and/or blog tour organiser is responsible for providing most of the content not the hosting blogger (unless it is their review of the book being promoted).
There is no hard and fast rule for how long a blog tour should run. A rough guide is one to two weeks though some have been run for as little as three days while others have continued for a month. Again, the decision is entirely the author’s and/or tour organiser’s. However, they should always remember, and take into account, the requirement to provide unique posts for each blog visit. Normal procedure is for people to visit different blogs on consecutive days during the tour period. (It is acceptable for a blog to host a different event on more than one occasion during the tour but not too many; two would be okay but anything beyond that may become questionable. There should be no repetition of content.)
As with any such event, the author needs to decide beforehand what it is they wish to achieve with the tour:
- Publicity for one or more of their books.
- Raise awareness of them self, the author.
- Draw readers to their website/blog.
These are the more obvious ideas but authors may have other aims. Whatever the goal, preplanning is a necessity.
Finding Host Bloggers
To make a tour meaningful and to reach as many people as possible, the tour should incorporate a variety of different blogs. Along with other organisational elements, this can be one of the more time consuming. As far as possible, a hosting blog should coincide with the author’s ethos. For example, a blog that predominantly features erotic romance would not be a suitable venue for YA (young adult) books or authors. No doubt there may be temptation to utilise whichever blog is willing to participate but the author/organiser would do well to adopt a practical outlook, even if it means limiting the number of hosting blogs. Directing tour followers to an inappropriate blog could, and probably would, be counterproductive and is unlikely to be forgotten.
The first place to start is with friends (in life and/or online), fellow authors and dedicated readers. Care should be taken not to apply undue pressure because of the perceived relationship: The blogger should be a willing participant. After that, if not already known, the author should search for blogs where the general content falls within their own genre or ethos.
Assuming the author is, as they should be, following and visiting blogs with similar content and aims, they should be aware of those that are considered influential. These are ones where people listen to what the blogger has to say and frequently take up their recommendations. Getting one or more of these to participate will undoubtedly enhance the tour’s impact. However, the author must accept it is the blog host’s decision whether to participate or not: These people are usually very busy and continuously bombarded with requests for assistance.
In ALL instances requests should be by ‘open’ invitation that makes clear the author will fully accept and understand if they choose to decline. By intimation (e.g. wording, phraseology) these should also make clear a grudge will not be held.
Invitations may be:
– General: simply asking if they would like to participate in a blog tour without providing any details of content type.
– Specific: asking if they are interested in hosting a particular element.
How many participants are required will be determined by how long the tour is to run for. Accepting some will be unable or unwilling to participate, more than the required number of bloggers should be approached. In the unlikely event of more than required accepting, the author/organiser should make a note and ask if they would be willing to have their details held for any future tours.
In all instances the author/organiser should respond:
– Declined: Thank them for taking the time to read and respond.
– Accepted: Thank them and, if invitation was a general one, request clarification about which element they would like to host (naturally, if invitation was specific, this will not be necessary); ask which date(s) they are interested in or offer a date; confirm full details will follow.
It will be apparent from the above, organising a tour is a time consuming, intensive, undertaking. Undoubtedly the idea of a tour will immediately appeal to many authors however, there is no quick fix. It requires dedication, determination, perseverance, and a thick skin to deal with the inevitable rejections/refusals and perhaps even criticisms.
Some authors, especially if they have established connections and relationships with fellow bloggers and/or do not have the resources to pay someone else, choose to undertake the organisation of a tour upon themselves. Prior to commencing they should ensure they realistically, taking into account all their other activities including ‘real’ life, have the available time to complete all the requirements including the live administration of the tour.
Authors who prefer, not to burden themselves, and who have the resources, may opt for employing a blog tour organiser. The organiser may be, and often is, an individual or could be a small dedicated organisation. The fees are usually reasonable, apparently £100/$100 is an average. Considering the amount of time and effort it takes to organise and administer a tour such a fee is more than reasonable. A simple search of the internet for ‘book blog tour organisers’ will return lists for the author to peruse. These people are usually busy and in demand and consequently, tend to be pre-booked for months ahead. The author needs to take this into account when planning a tour. As with all marketing, they should be thinking far ahead.
Whoever undertakes the task needs to be organised. Some sort of document(s) or spreadsheet(s) needs to be maintained for recording:
- who has been invited;
- what their response was;
- the date the blog will participate;
- what element the blog will host;
- when to send a reminder;
- when, and where, to publicise each event;
- any other information considered relevant.
Such a document/spreadsheet may also be maintained to list bloggers who are willing to participate in future tours. And also, to note those who are definitely unwilling to ensure they are not contacted again.
Naturally, if people are to be aware of the tour, the author and/or organiser needs to publicise the event. This is normally done via the usual channels: author owned website and/or blog; newsletters; email lists; social media. Paid advertising is not usually included though there is no reason why, if wished, it may not also be employed though it obviously increases the cost of the event.
The publicity needs to be constant, without spamming. Not an easy task but each days event should be highlighted and communicated throughout the relevant day: people are busy and frequently require a reminder.
The success or failure of a tour is partly down to the author. They need to acknowledge and respond to all comments and reactions wherever they occur: the hosting blog; their own blog; social media, email responses; etc. People need to feel engaged and appreciated for their own efforts.
Note: Unless the author is the organiser, this is a task that falls to them, not the external tour organiser.
Despite the energy and effort put into a blog tour, there is no guarantee of success relative to the original aim. However, such a tour will result in the book/author coming before multiple readers, hopefully many new. To that extent it may be considered a success. There is also the likelihood of new relationships being built, which is a positive from all perspectives.
Statistics from these tours are not readily available nevertheless, some idea of response may be gained from assessing:
- the number and type (positive, negative, upbeat, critical) of comments left;
- how many views tour posts gained compared to other posts (i.e. those normally published in the host blog);
- any direct communications (e.g. via email, contact forms, social media messaging);
- noticeable increase in sales and/or website/blog subscribers.
A blog tour is the virtual equivalent of a traditional author tour round various physical locations. In this instance it is blogs that are visited. Such tours may, usually, form part of an overall marketing plan. Though not as popular as they once were, blog tours remain a viable marketing tool.
Organising and running a tour requires commitment. Authors should ensure they have the time available to do all that is necessary, before, during, and after the tour.
In view of this website’s commitment to authors and books, the article has been written from that perspective. Nevertheless, with perhaps slight adjustment, the principles apply to tours for any product.
Apologies for the unusual length of this article but the topic did not lend itself to splitting.